- Paperback: 228 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (February 17, 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393305635
- ISBN-13: 978-0393305630
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,675,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Perfect Failure: Kennedy, Eisenhower, and the CIA at the Bay of Pigs Paperback – February 17, 1989
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The torrent of revelations about the Iran-contra affair during the summer's televised hearings, and in the recently released report of the Congressional committees that conducted the hearings, has made Americans aware both of the importance of covert action in the foreign policy of their country and of its risks and costs. These two books do nothing to rehabilitate its reputation or to improve its image...
...Mr. Higgins, whose style is anything but graceful, uses strong primary colors to paint the ''perfect failure'' of the Bay of Pigs. He makes no new revelations, but his solid research -in memoirs, declassified documents and interviews -leads to stark and damning conclusions. A reluctant President Kennedy inherited a half-baked plan for the invasion of Cuba prepared by the C.I.A. under President Eisenhower. Kennedy and his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, mistook for an approval the Joint Chiefs of Staff's mere acquiescence to a plan that the military, deep down, deemed insufficient.
Even so, Kennedy's desire to make the American role in the operation as invisible as possible forced the organizers to move the site of the landing from the town of Trinidad (on Cuba's south coast, near mountains into which the invaders could have retreated) to the swamp of the Bay of Pigs, 80 miles from the nearest mountains, and led them to dilute and delay the air strikes that were supposed to cover the operation. Even if the original plan for these strikes had been followed, Mr. Higgins believes - rightly, in my opinion -that Mr. Castro would have won, given his will to fight. The military requirement for success was a large American participation in the invasion. The political necessity of presenting the affair as an attempt by Cubans to liberate their island, and of avoiding a wave of anti-Americanism in Latin America, excluded such participation - and doomed the undertaking.
MR. HIGGINS praises Kennedy for having resisted strong pressures toward a more open and considerable American military intervention, and he suggests that the C.I.A. planners, Allen Dulles and Richard Bissell, had allowed a timid plan to go into effect because they gambled that its very flaws would force the President's hand. But the author also shows how shoddy the decision-making process within the Administration had been; such dissenters as Under Secretary of State Chester Bowles and Senator J. William Fulbright were not taken seriously. Kennedy was the victim of his own lack of experience, of his anti-Communism (or liberal imperialism), of his need to show toughness (especially as he was resisting pressure to intervene in Laos) and of a time bomb inherited from his predecessor: the Cuban exiles who were being trained in Guatemala were increasingly unwelcome there, and as Mr. Treverton puts it, ''There seemed only one place to put [them] - Cuba.''
After the fiasco, an investigation within the C.I.A. concluded that the operation had been ''too big to be a raid and too small to be an invasion.'' When one looks at President Reagan's far more overt action against Nicaragua, one realizes that his Administration is determined not only to do away with the so-called Vietnam syndrome but to ignore the lessons of the Bay of Pigs as well.
During the last century, the United States participated in over 28 armed conflicts worldwide. The Bay of Pigs fiasco became the Achilles heel of America's dependability and courage to fight for a good cause.
"The Perfect Failure" expounds the irreparable damage ignorant politicians and bureaucrats can inflict to their nations' integrity. I highly recommend the book.
Andrew J. Rodriguez
Award-winning author: "Adios, Havana," a Memoir.